to enter its entire holding into the Countryside Stewardship scheme.
The scheme is being massively expanded under the England Rural
Development Plan as part of the government's move to re-direct Common
assistance for enhancing the environment and rural development.
The application of the 3,000 hectare farm includes the establishment
and maintenance of more than 113km of field margins and hedgerows,
including hedge planting and conservation headlands.
If accepted, the applicants, Willoughby Farm at Alford, will qualify
for hundreds of thousands of pounds in payments over a 10 year period
and will form one of the biggest agreements under the scheme.
The farm also proposes to enhance public enjoyment of the area by
creating 1.2km of permissive footpath and 4km of permissive
bridleway. Works are also proposed to protect and enhance a Grade II
listed Historic Park and two Schedule Ancient Monuments. In addition
to the creation of arable margins and hedgerow restoration, wildlife
conservation is being addressed through the sympathetic management of
40 hectares of existing grassland and creation of 20 hectares of new
grassland with pond restoration, scrub clearance and the raising of
water levels providing a rich variety of wildlife habitats
encouraging snipe, lapwing, curlew and redshank as well as other
Elliot Morley, visiting the farm today announced that a record 3,500
applications for Countryside Stewardship had been received before the
closing date of 31 May.
'I am delighted that the government's increased budget for
Stewardship - which will rise from£13m in 1997 to an estimated£126m
by 2006 - has been met with such an enthusiastic response from
farmers. More and more are embracing the scheme as a way of enhancing
the environment of their farms.
'Stewardship has always been a popular and heavily oversubscribed
scheme. In the past we have had to reject considerable numbers of
worthwhile applications, simply on the grounds of not having enough
money. This year, we should, however, be able to accept more than
double the number of agreements in 1999.
'With the substantial extra funding available, we hope to offer
around 3,000 new agreements this year, compared to around 1,300 in
'I continue to be both delighted and impressed by the overwhelming
commitment to stewardship and to conservation in general by the
farming community, even in these difficult times. This is due in no
small part to the dedication shown by MAFF's partner organisations
and by the Farming and Rural Conservation Agency, who have worked
tirelessly since February to ensure that a sufficient number of
worthwhile applications have been received.'
The ministry are now working hard to process the applications as
quickly as possible. All applicants should have already been notified
about the status of their applications and it is hoped to make firm
agreement offers by the end of October (subject to approval of the
England Rural Development Plan by the European Commission).
1. Countryside minister Elliot Morley announced a boost to
Countryside Stewardship funding on 14 February 2000.
2. The Countryside Stewardship Scheme offers payments to farmers
and land managers to improve the natural beauty and diversity of the
countryside under ten year agreements, which start on 1 October. The
scheme operates throughout England and any individual or body
managing suitable land is eligible to apply. Payments range from£4
to£280 per hectare.
3. Payments are co-financed by the EU. The scheme forms part of the
proposals for implementing the Rural Development Regulation
(Regulation 1257/99) set out in the England Rural Development Plan
(ERDP). The ERDP was launched by Nick Brown at the NFU AGM on 2
February. It was submitted to the European Commission for consideration at the end of January. Approval is expected in September.
4. MAFF's partner organisations include the Countryside Agency,
English Nature, English Heritage, the National Park Authorities, the
Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group, the Wildlife Trusts and the RSPB.
5. The Farming & Rural Conservation Agency provide technical advice
to MAFF on the scheme.
6. At the end of 1999 the scheme covered 210,000 hectares of land.